Vampire Hunter D Vol. 11: Pale Fallen Angel - Parts 1 & 2 (Mania.com)

By:Kate O'Neil
Review Date: Monday, July 05, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Hunter has become the hunted, but it’s hard to say if the profit will outweigh the cost on this job. 

Creative Staff
Writer/Artist: Hideyuki Kikuchi and Yoshitaka Amano
Translation: Kevin Leahy
Adaptation: Kevin Leahy

What They Say
Vol. 11 Pale Fallen Angels Part 1 and 2

Krauhasen: A mysterious land under the control of Lord Vlad Balarge, a member of the vampire Nobility. When Lord Vlad's son, Baron Byron Balarge, needs to make a long and treacherous journey to faraway Krauhasen, he commissions the help of the infamous Vampire Hunter D, promising a princely sum and a solemn vow-no feasting on any humans for the duration of their journey!

Still, D finds his work cut out for him as the duo encounters an ongoing parade of thugs, rogues, and runaways, all with riot and revenge in mind. The pair are joined by the teenage tumbling act, May and Hugh, and the haughty Noblewoman Miska, recently spared death by the stake. But when D discovers the Baron's plans to murder Lord Vlad, he quickly finds his own life in danger. Can their ragtag group evade Lord Vlad's henchmen, the Dark Water assassins - whose very touch can turn a man to liquid - and make it to Krauhausen in one piece? And should D stop the Baron, whose true agenda is even more insiduous than he could possibly imagine?

The Review!
Technical

Dark Horse and DMP continue their release of the Vampire Hunter D novels.  The paperback matches the style of the previous books in the series. This volume combines parts one and two of the Pale Fallen Angel tale, and in doing so it has a significantly higher page count than the previous volumes, topping out at around 300 pages.  There’s one color illustration at the front (the Japanese cover for part 2) and several full-page black-and-white ink illustrations punctuated throughout.  Amano’s art is highly surreal and it must have infuriated the animators on the Vampire Hunter D movies trying to adapt it to make sense.
 
There are no significant printing issues, and I noticed no spelling errors.  The end of the book contains a preview chapter of the next volume.
 
Contents
"D, who are you?” ask several of the characters in this novel.  The reader is going to be asking themselves the same thing.  After so many novels, D remains a cipher to everyone.  His background is still mostly a mystery launching into this, the eleventh English release of his adventures hunting down the vampiric Nobility and their monstrous creations.
 
This four part storyline begins with D accepting a job from the most unlikely of customers.  The Baron Byron Balazs needs D’s assistance in ridding himself of his father, Lord Vlad Balazs.  The Baron offers no explanation, but D isn’t looking for one.  The pay is apparently extravagant.  The Baron can take care of himself, showing extraordinary fighting skill and several curious habits not usually seen in the Nobility – his ability to resist feeding on hapless humans being one.  He still hires a renowned vampire hunter to escort him to a deadly rendezvous, and to fight off the assassins sent to intercept them along the way.
 
From the very start the journey is rough.  After a chance meeting, another Noble, the illusive and haughty Miska, falls in with the Baron and D on their journey.  She just happens to be heading in the same direction as everyone else.  Not long after, a sibling pair of acrobats fall under D’s protection as well.  The unusual group race along toward Krauhausen and meet wave after wave of supernatural trouble along the way. 
 
Which leads me to the first of the unfortunate problems with the story: The writing is littered with purple prose.  The story is written from the viewpoint of a narrator who delights in asking questions about the plot, only to answer them right away in backward-sounding sentences.  Each and every height, weight, and distance is given with exact detail, in often extreme and impossible measurements.  In its attempts to impress its audience with the fantastic, it blows everything out of proportion.  Fight scenes are often confusing, because trying to work out in your head the mechanics of what’s going on may give you a migraine.
 
The series setting, itself, is rooted deep in the Dying Earth genre.  The population of humans and vampires is low and the planet is a scarred veteran of countless apocalyptic wars.  Magic and science are one and, in this setting, you expect to see extraordinary exploits and outrageous creatures.  This novel, however, takes that to absurd extremes.  Each encounter the group comes up against is more outlandish and imperiling than the last.  By the time part one ends, any sense of fear you had for any of the characters no longer matters.  D is invincible; he’s perfect; nothing can stop him.  He brushes past every challenge thrown his way.  All that’s left is for the reader to transfer his or her concern to D’s companions.  
 
This would be fine, except everyone but the Baron is one dimensional or unlikable.  Usually both.  There’s some attempt to develop May and Miska when they are separated from D, and it’s that chapter which provides a small sorely needed break in the storyline.  Unfortunately, they quickly relegated back to damsels in distress.  The assassins, a group of talented Hunters in their own right, are nothing more than their gimmicks. 
 
With all the peril taken from the journey, it becomes an endless series of battles.  When D dispatched the last of the foes, I was breathing a sigh of relief – not for the characters but in hope we might now get on with it and find out why the Baron wants his father dead (and vice versa).
 
In Summary:
The Vampire Hunter D series has managed to do what few other Japanese novel series aimed at young adults have been able to – stay in print in English.  The pulpy mix of action and out-there science fiction and fantasy is a strong draw for a reader looking for a good light read.  Vampires are quite popular right now, and the vampires in D are both pretty and extremely deadly.  Unfortunately, the often bizarre writing, two-dimensional characters and breakneck pace make this volume a tiring read.  It’s certainly not the worst vampire fiction out there, or even the worst science fiction, but good ideas are being smothered by unsympathetic prose.  Here’s hoping that parts 3 and 4 of the story slow the action down and provide for a bit more character interaction in exchange for confounding supernatural fights.
 



Mania Grade: C-
Art Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translation Rating: C+
Age Rating: No Rating
Released By: Dark Horse
MSRP: 14.95
Pages: 480
ISBN: 978-1595821300
Size: B6
Orientation: Left to Right
Series: Vampire Hunter D (novels)